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Hungry Donner

Roll Players not Role Players

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I've been running games for a long time now, about 17 years. I have had the pleasantries of dealing with very good role players and active players throughout my GM'ing experience. I have a new group. I've moved states and am running this wonderful EotE game that I've put a lot of thought into.

 

They are all experienced players...but...

None of them have every played a ROLE PLAYING game before. It seems like they are only truly having fun during combat. They are reactive so it feels like I have to force NPC interactions on them to provide story elements and plot development.

 

I'm used to providing epic combats to my players by cranking up tension and story elements until it explodes into a combat that players will tell stories about for years to come.

 

It seems if they aren't in combat they aren't having fun. Despite my years of experience, I've never had a group like this and am unsure of how to approach this game.

 

Any advice experienced GM's can offer would be highly appreciated.

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I'm in a campus role playing club and we have plenty of members who are that kind of gamer. Why don't they just go play miniatures games if they like combat and rolling, right?

 

Assuming you're sticking with your current group, have you tried weaning them off combat by providing measurable rewards through active role playing?

Or maybe have then get through a combat encouter by encouraging them to use terrain to take out the hostile? And by encourage, I mean take away their guns and let them run in circles until they come up with another option?

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It sounds like their experience is more with Wargaming than Role Playing.  There's a bit of advice that I've found helpful, not just in gaming, but in life.  "Don't assume anything."  If they're not experienced, they might just be unsure of how to Role Play, and are more comfortable with the more "predictable" aspect of rolling dice for combat. 

 

My advice?  Talk to them.  Find out for sure.  What you see as "not having fun" might just be "not getting it [yet]."  Let them know what you enjoy about the Role Playing hobby, and how it's different from Wargames.  Then ask them whether they have any interest in the Role Playing Aspect at all.  Because if they're not interested in it, there's no point trying to force it.  If they are interested but don't feel comfortable speaking in character, or don't think they're creative enough, you can overcome that.  

 

Practice by pretening they're in a holonet interview, and have them answer as their character.  What's your name?  What do you do?  What do you like about it?  What's the farthest from your homeworld you've ever been?  What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?  I put that last question in because every Role Playing campaign I've ever run inevetably devolves into a Monty Python sketch.  OK, Star Wars games trend closer to Spaceballs.  Your mileage may vary.

 

But honestly, if they're not into, they're just not into it.  If you still want to game with the group, I can only go with the advice of Jack Skellington.  "*sigh*  Might as well give them what they want." 

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Thanks for the advice. I think I will start giving out bonus experience for role play. I'm going to try to include more combat to as that is what they seem to enjoy the most. I just find it weird playing with such a reactive group. 

 

I'm gonna try to introduce some more role playing opportunities based on their (mostly) extreme actions. Last game the Wookie killed a shop owner for a ship part that they had enough to pay for. I think I will introduce a crying child mourning for his grandpa next game. Of course I will also introduce a bounty and a family member seeking vengeance for his actions.

 

I'm gonna stick it out and keep running the game. I'm just not familiar or catering to such a blood thirsty group. They have admitted that they've never really been encouraged to role play before. So, maybe they will come around with some encouragement. 

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Oh, and remember that, thanks to the Strain mechanic, this is a system where certain classes of conversation can be treated very much like combat with weapons.  Mixing a few of those in and encouraging them to describe what their characters are saying and doing could help break that particular dam wide open.

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I think I'm gonna write down a question for each character and have them write an in-character response to said question during the course of the game. This will encourage them to think about their character and I'll give them some bonus xp for doing so.

 

Questions like: "What is your happiest memory?" "Describe the house/ship you grew up in" etc

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I think I'm gonna write down a question for each character and have them write an in-character response to said question during the course of the game. This will encourage them to think about their character and I'll give them some bonus xp for doing so.

 

Questions like: "What is your happiest memory?" "Describe the house/ship you grew up in" etc

 

Meh. I find dropping questionnaires on players who aren't all that keen on "acting" just worsens matters. It's a rare person who likes character questionnaires and if they're already predisposed against it, why force more of it on them? I think you already hit on your solution - meet in the middle. Give them more combat but they also need to understand the game can't be ALL combat. So pepper in that roleplaying and reward them when they "get it" and don't when they don't. In no uncertain terms they should know when XP or resources are awarded for roleplaying - "...and Joe gets 5 bonus XP for the great roleplaying he did during the negotiation scene."

 

A little more devious, but you may even subtly "keep them hurting" for those that don't get it. Someone always wants combat and goes so far as to break immersion all the time just to shoot something, well, give em what they wish for - that character won't be around long.

 

Just keep communication open and coach them along if they're willing, reward them when they do.

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If you give them questions, I agree they should NOT be done so during play. Perhaps give your players a list of questions to force them to develop their characters, but do so before or between sessions.  Here is an example of questions given to my players using suggestions from FFG's Warhammer RPG:

 

1. WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
2. WHAT IS YOUR FAMILY LIKE?
3. WHAT IS YOUR SOCIAL CLASS?
4. WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU BECAME AN ADVENTURER?
5. WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ADVENTURER?
6. HOW RELIGIOUS ARE YOU?
7. WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND ENEMIES?
8. WHAT ARE YOUR PRIZED POSSESSIONS?
9. WHO ARE YOU LOYAL TO?
10. WHO DO YOU LOVE OR HATE?
 

Some will need replaced or adjusted for a Star Wars campaign, but you get the idea. This list does need some personality questions added though since it is more centered on background. What do you fear? What upsets you? Are you level headed or angry? Grumpy or good natured? etc.

 

I completely agree you should have a discussion about what role playing is. Have an example ready of a role played fight versus a boring roll played fight. You could even pre-select a short video clip from youtube of such. They might not even understand what role playing is or how it can be fun and so are dismissing it.

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Honestly talk to them and make sure expectations are set for everyone. It takes very little time and you can lay out your plans for the xp bonus for roleplay etc. throwing things out as a surprise or a questionnaire will feel arbitrary and if your assumptions are right they will find those boring and not complete them.

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I've been running games for a long time now, about 17 years. I have had the pleasantries of dealing with very good role players and active players throughout my GM'ing experience. I have a new group. I've moved states and am running this wonderful EotE game that I've put a lot of thought into.

 

They are all experienced players...but...

None of them have every played a ROLE PLAYING game before. It seems like they are only truly having fun during combat. They are reactive so it feels like I have to force NPC interactions on them to provide story elements and plot development.

 

I'm used to providing epic combats to my players by cranking up tension and story elements until it explodes into a combat that players will tell stories about for years to come.

 

It seems if they aren't in combat they aren't having fun. Despite my years of experience, I've never had a group like this and am unsure of how to approach this game.

 

Any advice experienced GM's can offer would be highly appreciated.

 

I can't claim to have been playing tabletops for 17 years, but I bet that is pretty common.  It's video games and/or boardgames bleeding over.  I don't think it's a bad thing, per se, but it's a different style of play.

 

Take the D&D board games for example (Ravenloft, Ashardalon).  It's D&D boiled down to the combat...that's it.  People tend to like tactics and fighting and stuff.   Roleplaying is still foreign to a lot of people, since this is the only setting where you can do that.  Whereas video games and board games all have combat and conflict in common.

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I think I'm gonna write down a question for each character and have them write an in-character response to said question during the course of the game. This will encourage them to think about their character and I'll give them some bonus xp for doing so.

 

You mean something like this: http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/86560-how-to-build-an-awesome-character-in-50ish-steps/

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Even video game RPGs now days are more about combat than story.  The stories are lacking or just plain bad, so they typically get skipped so we can get back into the action.

It's a tough habit to break.  And it doesn't work well for table top RPGs.

Heck, I'd be scared to go back and witness my early D&D gaming.  I'm sure the only motivation to be had was killing everything for XP to level up.  It takes time to grow and learn about how to RP correctly.

 

The first step is in character creation.  Long time RPGers will know to build a character, not a set of stats.  They will have a backstory, and usually obligations and motivations were something we shoehorned into other systems.  In Edge, the obligations and motivations are a way to force people to build a character with an interesting tale.  I have a feeling that this may have been lost.  They may have built a character around stats and forgot about the background.

 

You can try talking to them.  Explain that there is more to the game than combat.  They need to think how their character would.  They need to act like their character would act.  They need to do things and say things as their characters would.  I have a feeling this will come off as more of a lecture though, and I'm not sure how to swing it in a way that won't discourage some players. 

 

What you might try is walking through each of their character with the entire group.  Tom is playing a wookie.  His obligation is X, his motivation is Y.  Tom, what's the backstory here.  How did X happen and why is Y important?  This forces the players to acknowledge that the characters are more than a set of numbers looking for combat.

 

Make a long, deep, interesting adventure where combat is not even a factor.  Make sure each character has a couple things they can do for the adventure so that they all stay involved.  Make sure there are elements that tie into each character.  If one is a wookie that has a motivation to stop slavery, make sure you have a way that he has to make some sort of hard choice.  Perhaps there is a slave auction and it will cost him all his creds to buy and free the slave....or maybe they can find a way to free the slave another way.  Remind players of their obligations and motivations when they come up, and reward those that follow through.  Make sure to point it out.

"You all get 10xp for this adventure.  Jeff, you get 5 bonus xp for role playing your motivation.  Fred, you get 5 xp for coming up with an interesting solution to help out Jeff."  Make sure to point out that the wookie that is motivated by ending slavery didn't even seem to care about the slave being sold, so he gets no bonus xp.

If there is any combat, make sure it's uninteresting...very small minion groups that will likely die before everyone fights.

 

Also, point out possible boost scenarios.  They have a problem, they come up with a solution and roll.  Now point out that had they done this first, or also done this, you would have given them a boost die.  They'll start to think harder about the situation.

 

The problem with RPGs is always the limitations placed by one's imagination.  Combat is easy to imagine.  People in cover, lasers flying, axes slicing.  Action is easy.  It's harder to imagine the details of a negotiotion.

 

The most memorably D&D adventure I ever had was a 5 hour adventure that involved no combat.  The GM had crafted this elaborate problem and cause of the problem.  And we had to solve the problem.  We still talk about the adventure today, some 10 years later as it was so deep, emotional, and scary.  There was 1 spot where combat could have happened, but we were far to weirded out by the adversary to even consider fighting him.  The fight would have been a joke, and easily won by the adventurers, but we had equal parts fear, confusion, and sorrow for the adversary.

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Gaming for Rollplayers, also known as "How I learned to love the Bomb."

 

Honestly, my high school and college days were filled with this type of scenario. Get the players together, have an elaborate scenario prepared, and it boils down to "how fast can I get to stabbing it with my +4 longsword?" Hack. Slash. Ugh. Thud.

 

After I got introduced to a few other games that were more dramatic (7th Sea), more narrative (FATE), or even just more crunchy with story elements (World of Darkness), I realized I can get a crunchy, number abusing, "kill 'em all!" group together by using the following:

 

Step 0: Get a group, ensure they know the source material. If they do not, make them sit in for a night watching it the night of/before chargen. ("Alright guys, Star Wars game next week! What, Jeff hasn't seen ANY of it? My place, Tuesday, you bring the beer and snacks and I'll get the films and character sheets!")

 

Step 1: Use an easy to follow premise to get them started. ("The noble heiress has been captured and you're all tasked to save her!")

 

Step 2: Give them what they want with dice rolling. ("Hey guys, your Streetwise check leads you to this guy at the cantina who supposedly deals out contracts like this, but you heard he's pretty tough. Sorry, but your Intimidation roll fails; what do you do? Well, okay, barroom blitz it is!")

 

Step 3: Add extra ways dice can be rolled in a non-combat environment tied with roleplaying. ("You want to talk past the guard so he doesn't raise the alarm? Tell me what you're saying to him before you roll the dice.")

 

Step 3.5: This may include turning social scenarios into combat. ("So you want to bribe the guard? He's pretty convinced he's doing the right thing. Make an attack roll with this skill and tell me how well you do.")

 

Step 3 - Bonus Mode: Add mechanic benefits for good roleplaying ("Well said there! Add another die and keep the higher of the two for that one!")

 

Step 4: Give them what they want: a big, epic combat to wrap things up. ("So you've reached the cell block where the heiress is located, but she's not there! It's your arch nemesis, and he's brought friends! Roll for initiative!")

 

Step 5: Awards, added points for good roleplaying. Rewards can be XP, loot, or a plot device they can use for later. ("You finally saved the heiress and brought her back to her VERY rich father. Because of your smooth talking earlier and your valiant rescue, he's willing to ensure that you may call in a favor at any time.")

 

Step 6: In future games, sneak in more of the roleplay elements. ("Alright, game two! Someone recap and we'll get started. You all trying to find a new job, and heard about this nobleman with cargo he wants to get offworld, but you can only get a chance to meet him without his guards at this shindig where only the rich and famous can get to. . .")

 

 

I converted a D&D d20-loving group into narrative beasts after about a year of doing this. I'm taking that group and using them to test EotE this weekend, especially since they handle the FATE system so well.

 

I hope that helps you a bit!

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UPDATE:

 

So, I ran my game again on Tuesday. We had a pow-wow before game about role playing they were all very open and tried very hard to get more into their characters. They managed to get into some pretty epic combat. I also pulled them into an underworld shindig thrown by a Hutt to celebrate the opening of a new cantina. They were able to make contacts and interact with NPCs on a level that they weren't really used to.

 

I scraped the idea of having them answer questions. But I did award bonus XP for role playing. 

 

It worked out well and was a very enjoyable game. I'm looking forward to seeing where this group will be in a years time. 

 

*Edited for clarity*

Edited by Hungry Donner

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I just want to point out that there is nothing wrong with what they were doing before as long as everyone was having fun. I don't believe in a proper way to roleplay, there are only issues when different people want different things from the game. Saying one is superior to the other is elitist BS, and is limiting the wonderful diversity this hobby has to offer.

 

That said, it's clear that you weren't having fun in their play-style. It is great that you got everyone on the same page and it is working. Bravo.

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I just want to point out that there is nothing wrong with what they were doing before as long as everyone was having fun. I don't believe in a proper way to roleplay, there are only issues when different people want different things from the game. Saying one is superior to the other is elitist BS, and is limiting the wonderful diversity this hobby has to offer.

 

That said, it's clear that you weren't having fun in their play-style. It is great that you got everyone on the same page and it is working. Bravo.

I don't think one is better than the other--just different. I do enjoy one more than the other, but that is personal preference. Like I said in my OP, I've had the pleasure of playing with amazing role players for almost all of my GMing time. Which has lead me to write a certain style of game. I was worried that the PC would not have fun or even find out the depths of the plot that surrounds them. I certainly wasn't having fun throwing wave after wave of faceless enemies at them.

 

I know lot's of groups that run dice/combat heavy. I've played in a couple too. It's just not my kinda sammich. 

 

I don't feel that I am an elitist because I'm trying to guide them more to role playing. I just don't think they actually know what they are missing by never having been exposed to a more narrative or story driven game. We talked and tried it and they very much enjoyed exploring their characters in new and interesting ways.

 

I'm very happy that they are enjoy trying this type of gaming.

 

Thanks to everyone that chimed in with ideas! Even if I didn't use your suggestion it still helped me think about the situation in a new way.

Edited by Hungry Donner

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Yesterday I ran a group of seven! players through Escape From Mos Shuuta. They were definitely a hack'n'slash bunch. They like to see things go BOOM! There were moments of clever planning and even some roleplaying. The game ended with them stealing the Imperial Shuttle. They had a very clever plan and some great dice rolls. They are all looking forward to next time.

I think introducing deep roleplay to this group is going to be a slow process. But, then I remember what we did to the Village of Homlet back in the day when I was about that age.

The seeds of roleplay will grow. Some players just haven't encountered the idea of solving game problems except by the application of force.

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I don't feel that I am an elitist because I'm trying to guide them more to role playing. I just don't think they actually know what they are missing by never having been exposed to a more narrative or story driven game. We talked and tried it and they very much enjoyed exploring their characters in new and interesting ways.

 

I'm very happy that they are enjoy trying this type of gaming.

 

Thanks to everyone that chimed in with ideas! Even if I didn't use your suggestion it still helped me think about the situation in a new way.

 

 

I wasn't trying to single you out there. These threads start tend to become a echo chamber of "good players vs bad players," and I felt it was necessary to point out that the table is big enough for everyone.

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The golden rule of being a good GM is "give them what they want".  Role-playing games are first and foremost a social situation in which one person is the host, the rest are guests.  While naturally the GM should enjoy himself, he's as much part of it as the people he's hosting, in the end, the game is solely dependent on your guests having a good time.  If combat is what they want, then write adventures in which the combats are dramatic, epic in scale and challenging.  

 

That said, its kind of a temporary solution to be honest.  I have found that game groups and game systems that focus too much of a sessions time on combat do not last in the long term.  4th edition D&D is a very good example of that.  When it came out it was like "wow", combat is so great, but after a few months the complaints of "not enough role-playing" started rolling in.  Today 4e and a lack of role-playing is practically synonymous and Wizards of the Coast has taken a lot of flak for their effort to provide a great combat mechanic because they failed to support it with a mechanic that provides the building blocks for creating great stories.

 

You should continue to try to infuse story in your game and hope that your group starts to respond.  Most people will respond, its a natural state of the human condition to love stories, so you have that working for you.  If they don't however I think you'll find in time the group will start to fall apart as they tire of the linear gaming.

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This is something of a tangent, but I find that if your players are treating the campaign like a tactics game instead of a roleplaying game (Not because they WANT to, but because they're too inexperienced to grasp anything but the mechanics and structure of gameplay) one way to gently nudge them in the right direction is to impose the following house rule:

 

Nobody rolls until the GM says so.

 

Bad Example: Pash's player needs a part from a junk dealer to fix his ship, but the buyer is trying to charge him for everything he's got. His player rolls a Negotiation check and succeeds.

GM: So what do you actually say to him?

Player: I negotiate with him to lower the price.

GM: I know, but how? What do you actually say?

Player: ...I negotiate with him to lower the price?

 

Rolls are intended to be used as a generalized yet fair abstraction of circumstances and variables, but a lot of times new players will use them as a crutch instead of as a tool.

 

Good Example: Pash's player tells the GM that he's going to pull out his datapad and see if his ship has any cargo that the dealer might want to exchange for the part. This sounds like a plausible tactic, so the GM tells him to go ahead and make a Negotiation roll.

 

It's a simple little rule, but if your players are struggling to grasp the basic idea of how narrative and mechanics should interact (In that order) it's a good teaching strategy. Bear in mind that this is for NEW players, not players who have just decided that they're going to play for the combat (Although I don't understand why they would choose Edge of all systems for that, but I digress).

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Hi there,

I find lowering the difficulty a little bit (or maybe a lot if they describe their action or give a great speach/talk) helps encourages a little bit more actual roleplay. :-)

As long as everyone is having fun though. If you have a party of roll players but everyone enjoys themselves anyway, you've got no problems.

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Hi there,

I find lowering the difficulty a little bit (or maybe a lot if they describe their action or give a great speach/talk) helps encourages a little bit more actual roleplay. :-)

As long as everyone is having fun though. If you have a party of roll players but everyone enjoys themselves anyway, you've got no problems.

 

I definitely make a point of awarding a boost die or two if the player gives a fun, interesting, funny or awesome explanation of what they're trying to do or say.

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When they ask "Can I?" Or say "I want to ..." Say "OK" then give them a die roll for success. Even if it is a very tough roll to succeed at. Give bonus upgrades for cool narration. It can take a while, but in time they will start to get it.

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